Teeth for Maoist strategy

New Delhi, Jan. 11: The Centre is honing its anti-Maoist strategy by pumping in additional funds, recruiting new personnel and bringing more rebel-infested areas within its glare.

Sources said the government had pushed funds under the security-related expenditure scheme (SRE) for 83 districts in nine Naxalite-hit states from Rs 80 crore to Rs 580 crore for this fiscal. It has already released over Rs 200 crore towards schemes under SRE implemented by the states, sources said.

“More than Rs 320 crore worth of funds will be released before March. Expenses of states regarding hiring of choppers, building approach roads and police stations will all be covered,” a home ministry source said.

Some of these announcements were made by home minister P. Chidambaram at a review meeting for paramilitary forces at the CRPF headquarters on Monday.

Sources said the number of special police officials (SPOs) would be increased to 25,500 from 13,500 now. Their salary of Rs 1,500 was also likely to see a substantial increase, the sources added.

SPOs have been a big help to paramilitary forces who have often not been on the best of terms with state police forces. These officials, mostly tribal youths with anti-Naxalite leanings or with a history of being Maoist, have excellent local knowledge that come in handy when security forces conduct operations.

“When we do not have enough policemen like in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada, we take SPOs, so an increase in their number is a welcome move,” said a CRPF officer.

A senior police officer from Chhattisgarh said Bastar alone needed around 100 battalions of security forces to overcome the Naxalite challenge. At present, the state has about 40,000 personnel aided by about 25,000 paramilitary personnel — far from the one lakh needed in Bastar.

So far, 35 of 83 districts in Naxilite-hit states, including West Midnapore, were named “focus” districts. But the government has now raised the number to 60. Some of these districts are believed to be from Madhya Pradesh which are not under the SRE.

An impact assessment of the SRE scheme was to be done for the entire state of Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. There has been an almost tenfold increase in violence in Bengal since 2008, home ministry figures show. With elections approaching, there are fears the violence will increase.

Rebel arrest

A senior Maoist leader from Chhattisgarh undergoing treatment at Gauhati Medical College and Hospital was today detained by security forces. He will be formally arrested tomorrow.

Police sources said Pijush Kanti Acharjee, 64, was hospitalised last week for treatment of paralysis after he was bitten by a snake in the jungles of Dantewada in Chhattisgarh in December. He was picked up on the basis of intelligence inputs provided by the army and the CRPF.

“According to our information, Acharjee is a senior Maoist leader and had joined the Maoists in 1964. He was bitten by a snake and suffered paralysis. He first came to his relative’s house in Shillong and was brought to GMCH last week for treatment. He was in cabin 20,” said the police source.

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